The Proposed Debate Rejected  

Jeff Riddle, yesterday:

Here is our response to James White’s challenge:

First, we do not believe that a pre-conference debate would serve the purposes or goals of this conference, which will be to offer a positive presentation of what we respectively refer to as the Canonical Text (Robert Truelove) or Confessional Text (Jeff Riddle) position.

A debate has the potentiality of undermining a core purpose of the conference. It makes sense that Riddle is leery of having a debate at the opening of the conference. White should be willing to have this at a different time.

A Debate Proposal

On Saturday, February 16, Jeff Riddle published Word Magazine episode 117 in which he dealt with the conjectural emendation of Revelation 16:5 that appears in the 1598 Beza TR. In that episode, he also had a number of things to say about James White.

This morning, I listened to a good chunk of WM 117 out of curiosity on my way to work. I got farther into it than I thought I would, due to a delay with a 4-vehicle accident on the highway. By the time I finally got to the office this morning, I was really curious what James White would have to say about it. So, I pinged him on Twitter:

@DrOakley1689 Hello from Oklahoma! Got to shake your hand back in December. Jeff Riddle, who I greatly respect but disagree with, has some interesting things to say about you and Rev 16:5. Would love to hear your response on DL. Maybe even guest him?

White replied:

That’s disappointing to hear.

I would think 100% Greek manuscript agreement is a dividing line between scholarly analysis (no one questions the original reading, honestly) and commitment to a traditional position.

But I’ll take a listen.

On my way home, I finished up WM 117, fascinated with Riddle’s fresh translation of Beza’s Latin, but curious why this has not been talked about before if it’s a viable translation. And then, as I was putting on my running shoes to go on a 4.7 mile run in the 38°F rain, I got a push notification on Overcast, informing me of a new episode of Radio Free Geneva, titled NIFB Arguments Reviewed, the Ecclesiastical Text Movement Examined. The second half of this episode is incredible. In it, we learn of a Facebook discussion in which Robert Truelove announced a Text and Canon conference on October 25 and 26, 2019, in Atlanta Georgia, hosted by his Christ Reformed Church.1 Both he and Jeff Riddle would be speaking at it. White is proposing that he debate either Truelove, or Riddle, or both of them, at this conference. It remains to be seen whether they accept his proposal or not. I’m certainly hoping that they will. If it doesn’t overlap with other traveling I have going on that month, I’d love to go and hear that debate live.

The entire second half of that Radio Free Geneva episode is super important but this part really struck me:

You make the same mistake that the Muslims do in looking at Metzger’s title. Corruption does not mean destruction. It means there are textual variants. No question questions that there are textual variants. Nobody. Nobody in the early church. And if you question there are textual variants, I don’t even know what to say at that point.

Anyway, I’ve been struck with how incredibly quickly these conversations can develop thanks to digital transmission.

  1. This is not to be confused with Jeff Riddle’s very similarly named Christ Reformed Baptist Church of Louisa, Virginia. ↩︎

Alternate Readings  

Dr. Theodore P. Letis:

As for the footnotes in the modern versions, they seem to be questioning the authenticity of every other verse with comments such as “not found in some ancient manuscripts” or “some manuscripts add,” without offering any explanation as to the value of these optional readings, or the various manuscripts they come from.

This tends to leave the average reader (unconsciously perhaps) with a doubtful attitude regarding what he can consider authoritative and in some sense final.

That rhetoric sounds great, until you remember that the original King James Version had this very thing. Luke 17:36 is a hotly debated passage and in its original 1611 printing of the King James Version, we read this:

This 36 verse is wanting in most of the Greek copies.

Here’s a scan that proves this. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s when people use an argument to defend a point of view that on its own grounds cannibalizes their contention.

Missing the Forest for the Trees  

This 2009 debate between James White and Bart Ehrman is mandatory listening for anyone who is even mildly interested in textual criticism. A few key thoughts that I keep getting struck with as I listen to this.

First, Bart Ehrman has completely missed the forest for the trees. He’s got a few gray area passages in his head, a couple hundred thousand typos, and he’s throwing up his hands in despair with the cry that we have no way of knowing what the New Testament actually said. In no other aspect of life would he do this. It’s akin to saying that because you got your friend’s birthday off by one day, you can’t be sure if you really know anything about them. That’s missing the forest for the trees. Bart’s spent so much time studying minutia that it’s gone to his head, and he’s completely forgotten the big picture.

Here’s the greater issue though. Bart has taken God’s place and asked this question: “If I were God, how would I go about preserving my revelation to mankind?” Bart’s human-centered subjective answer goes like this: “However God would go about it, I can be sure that God would not do that would be by using fallible men who are capable of making copyist mistakes.” Bart has put a limit on God, and decided (whimsically and sheerly on his own — a very defiant and prideful thing to do) that he knows what God would and wouldn’t do. This is not following the truth wherever it leads you, as he insists that it is in the debate. Rather, it’s exchanging the truth of God for a lie. It’s going down a “Yea, hath God said?” rabbit trail of self-deception that will ultimately lead to a rhetorical “What is truth?” that cannot be satisfactorily answered.

This is exactly the kind of mistake we see objectors making in Romans 9. It’s a failure to identify who the potter is and who the clay is. God is winning the game of truth with a self-imposed handicap. That handicap is mankind’s own imperfection and ability for error as he copied the New Testament by hand for the first ~1,500 years after Christ’s ascension. And even with that self-imposed handicap, God is preserving his word. The tenacity of the scriptures remains unbroken. The original autographs are with us today. We possess 1,100 pieces for the 1,000-piece puzzle of the New Testament.

Bart Ehrman, writing about this debate:

I wasn’t sure whether I should post this debate or not. Frankly, it was not a good experience. I normally do not have an aversion to the people I debate. But James White is that kind of fundamentalist who gets under my skin.

I feel very sorry for this man. To touch the most sacred word of God for all these decades and to reject it all. If he doesn’t return to God, there will be few men in hell who know more about the scripture than he.

A Weird Way of Doing Things  

James White, about 1:38 into a DL episode a few days ago, talking about J.D. Greear:

He has this weird way of doing things where he’s got this notebook type thing. I don’t know if this is a Southern Baptist thing or what, but he’s just whipping through this stuff. I actually downloaded it — I have it here. There’s actually a PDF of the outline he’s got up there. It’s a weird way of doing things.

You can see this for yourself in the video. Quite a hipsterville way of doing things.

Update: Ok, he gets them from here, it turns out. Those are actually … very cool.

In the Social Justice Community, It Is a Sin to Not Wed a Same Sex Couple  

Faithful America describes itself as the “largest and fastest-growing online community of Christians putting faith into action for social justice.” Dr. Voddie Baucham described them during at this year’s G3 conference. The movement is worth looking at with your own eyes. Here’s one of their “achievements.”

Pennsylvania United Methodist pastor Frank Schaefer was put on trial and defrocked for officiating at the wedding of his gay son. But after local Methodists made headlines with a petition signed by 35,000 Faithful America members, his bishop publicly committed to do everything in her power to prevent future trials, helping prompt other bishops to make the same promise. (Schaefer’s defrocking was ultimately overturned on appeal.)

The dividing line of true Christians who live Sola Scriptura and those who do not is quickly becoming stark.

How to Mishandle Romans 1  

James David Greear, President of the Southern Baptist Convention, in a recent sermon last month:

Let me say something very clearly: Homosexuality does not send you to hell. And here’s how I know that: being heterosexual doesn’t send you to heaven.

The conspiracy theory that the SBC has been capitulating into worldliness and compromise has gone from being something that the spiritual Alex Jones of the community have rumored about into being a full-blown reality that’s impossible to ignore.

And yes, Jon Harris shreds Greear’s exegesis — or rather eisegesis — and we’re all looking forward to when James White will do the same.

Intersectionality Is a Sinful and Rebellious Concept  

I am getting around to listening to all the recordings from the G3 conference. This one by White is savage from the get-go. He demonstrates that the Woke movement is nothing more than a return to the world’s age-old racism and division and that the only cure for true God-approved equality is the gospel.

There Is No Such Thing as a Sin that Only One Group of Humans Is Capable of Committing  

Zyxl, in a Twitter thread that James White started yesterday:

Can men commit the sin of intentionally drinking large amounts of alcohol while pregnant? Can young children commit the sins of paedophilia? Can an orphan disobey their parents?

What this person fails to understand is this: we do not all have equal opportunity to exercise a specific outward manifestation of a sin, but we do all have equal depravity to perform that sin in our hearts and in other outward ways. Sin begins in the heart, and at the root of all sin is a failure to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourself. Because of varying circumstances, not everyone can demonstrate that failure in exactly the same way. But that’s very different from saying that some groups of people are incapable of committing certain sins. The sin that’s at the root of drinking large amounts of alcohol while pregnant is something anyone can be guilty of. People like Zyxl are confused about what sin truly is from God’s perspective.

I like how 19_mo_86 said it:

While I’m not surprised at the secular world being confused on this simple point, I never dreamed genuine, bible believing, orthodox, Christ following people would be just as confused. This is so basic! I’m at a loss here.

This is where we’re at, folks.

Jesus Quotes a Dead Sea Scroll in Response to John’s Disciples  

I am listening to The Case for Christ on Audible right now, which I very highly recommend. In one of his interviews, Lee Strobel goes into Jesus’ reply to John’s disciples in Matthew 11 and points out that his “the dead are raised” part isn’t a quote from Isaiah 35 or 61 because it’s just not there. But it is to be seen in a Dead Sea scroll which leading papyrologists date to around 30 B.C. Jesus wasn’t just quoting the Nevi’im. Among other things, this provides authenticity, as though any where needed, that Matthew 11, which we’ve had for almost two millenia before uncovering this Dead Sea scroll, records the very words of Jesus.

Social Justice and the Downgrade of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary  

This is an incredible 90-minute talk by Jon Harris, who recently graduated from SEBTC. It’s a first-hand account of what’s going on at this seminary, and in some ways it’s representative of what’s going on on other seminaries and churches. So-called social justice is providing an improper diversion from true gospel issues. It’s hard to see where this is headed in the long run, but it spells trouble.

Things Pastor Robinson Got Wrong in His Debate With James White  

  • That Christ only intercedes for those who have already “gotten saved.”1 As an emergent property, that Jesus’ interceding has nothing to do with effectively saving us; for he doesn’t even start interceding until we’re saved.
  • That the “foreknowing” is a passive foreknowing and fundamentally different from the other action verbs that God is spoken to be doing. And that this is the only place in the Bible where this sort of passive knowledge exists.
  • That the “first” in Ephesians 1:12 has to be read backwards to interpret 1:3 and that it means “first” before God’s action, not “first” as in first fruits.
  • That not all who are called are justified, citing “Many are called but few a chosen.” A direct contradiction of the passage.
  • That when we’re saved, our souls are perfect but our bodies are imperfect (where does he even get this stuff?). And that after salvation, we’re incapable of good works.
  • That White teaches a “damnable heresy” of salvation by works when in reality, it’s White who’s teaching sola gratia and Robinson who’s teaching that man’s action is the first step in salvation.

This sort of confused, self-contradicting interpretation of the Bible, or of a specific English translation of the Bible, takes much patience to debate.

  1. This phrase “get saved” is an imprecise two-cent phrase, and it’s bizarrely prevalent in Robinson’s circles. It makes it sound like salvation is an authorization token that you get and store as a cookie in your spiritual browser for safekeeping. It shifts the focus of salvific work from being a God-based action into being a confusingly objectified entity, the acquisition of which man initiates of his own volition. At best, it’s unhelpful phraseology. ↩︎

The Nashville Statement  

If you haven’t read and signed the Nashville Statement which came out back in 2017, I recommend doing so. It is making the rounds in the Netherlands right now. Meanwhile, the country’s prosecutor is investing whether this statement breaks anti-discrimination laws. One day in the not-too-distant future, it might be a crime to sign a document like the Nashville Statement. But it’s not postulating anything that the Bible doesn’t very clearly teach.